Features // Nature

Win a luxury cabin break with Forest Holidays
Win a luxury cabin break with Forest Holidays

This competition is now closed. Check back later to find out the winner. Camping in the UK can be a gruelling affair, what with the high chance of rain and often low temperatures – not to mention the rocket science-like fiasco of constructing your nylon home for the night. So, we’ve teamed up with Forest…

Hiking in the Tatras, Poland
Hiking in the Tatras, Poland

The country’s traditional attractions – Warsaw’s lively old town and Kraków’s gorgeous squares – are worthwhile stops, but it’s easy to forget that there is another Poland, a genuine wilderness of high (and often snowbound) peaks, populated by lynx and bears. The Tatras Mountains are as beautiful as any national park in Europe, and their…

Chasing condors in the Colca Canyon, Peru
Chasing condors in the Colca Canyon, Peru

The rays of the morning sun begin to evaporate the mist that shrouds the depths of Peru’s Colca Canyon. You’ve come out in the early hours to see the condor, or Andean vulture, in action, and as the mist dissipates, you can see hundreds of others have done the same. Many cluster at the mirador…

The road to ruins: Machu Picchu, Peru
The road to ruins: Machu Picchu, Peru

There’s a point on the Inca Trail when you suddenly forget the accumulated aches and pains of four days’ hard slog across the Andes. You’re standing at Inti Punku, the Sun Gate, the first golden rays of dawn slowly bringing the jungle to life. Down below, revealing itself in tantalizing glimpses as the early-morning mist…

A to B by cross-country ski, Norway
A to B by cross-country ski, Norway

With 30,000km of marked trails, Norway is the true home of cross-country skiing, the original and most effective means of getting yourself across snowbound winter landscapes. And it’s easier and less daunting to learn than the more popular downhill variety (well, more popular outside Scandinavia – here, everyone is a cross-country skier from the age…

The best places to visit in August
The best places to visit in August

With festival season in full swing, August offers no end of opportunities to party, from the off-the-wall Burning Man to the arty Edinburgh Festival; but there are plenty of options for chilled-out breaks too. Here are our tips for the best places to visit in August: Bike the Black Forest, Germany The Black Forest may…

Hiking the Besseggen Ridge
Hiking the Besseggen Ridge

As trekking goes, the beginning of the Besseggen Ridge is a breeze. Sitting on the bow of a little tug as it chugs along picturesque Lake Gjende in central Norway’s Jotunheimen Nasjonalpark, you’d be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about – this is, after all, Norway’s best-known day hike, in the country’s…

Plunging from mountain to fjord on the Flamsbana
Plunging from mountain to fjord on the Flamsbana

The brakes grind then release and you’re off, squeaking and squealing down a roller-coaster-like track for what might just be the train ride of your life. This is the Flåmsbana, a shiny, pine-green pleasure train that plunges nearly a kilometre in a mere fifty minutes. The unforgettable ride takes you from the heady frozen heights of the Norwegian mountains…

Taking in the views on the Tongariro Crossing
Taking in the views on the Tongariro Crossing

Alpine tundra, barren volcanic craters, steaming springs and iridescent lakes – the sheer diversity on the Tongariro Crossing makes it probably the best one-day tramp in the country. The wonderfully long views are unimpeded by the dense bush that crowds most New Zealand tracks, and from the highest point you can look out over almost…

Cycling in the Dutch countryside
Cycling in the Dutch countryside

If you like the idea of cycling, but would rather cut off both arms and legs than bike up a mountain, then perhaps The Netherlands is the perfect place for you – especially if you’re also scared of traffic. The most cycle-friendly country in the world, Holland has a fantastically well-integrated network of cycle paths…

Finding the corpse flower, Indonesia
Finding the corpse flower, Indonesia

When the English naturalist Joseph Arnold smelt rotting flesh during an 1821 expedition to the steamy jungles of Sumatra, he must have feared the worst. Back then, this was cannibal country. Blood-thirsty local tribes were known to capture their most hated enemies, tie them to a stake, and start feasting on their roasted body parts.…

The Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco
The Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco

On the drive up through the Imlil Valley into the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, you have a sense that you’re going somewhere special. The road passes rose-coloured adobe villages and fields terraced with ancient irrigation channels that nourish apple, cherry and walnut orchards. Mules trot along the road carrying children, women return from the…

Meeting the monarch butterflies in Michoacan
Meeting the monarch butterflies in Michoacan

Early morning in the mountains of Michoacán. There’s a stillness in the wooded glades and a delicate scent of piny resin in the air. Mostly oyamel firs, the trees are oddly coated in a scrunched orange blanket – some kind of fungus? Diseased bark? Then the sun breaks through the mist and thousands of butterflies…

Visiting the Pueblos Mancomunados, Mexico
Visiting the Pueblos Mancomunados, Mexico

Pine forests, wild mushrooms and a sunrise above clouds: not what you might associate with Mexico, better known for beaches, colonial cities and Aztec ruins. The mountains of the Sierra Norte, two hours’ bus journey north of Oaxaca, are home to a cluster of villages, a semi-autonomous community known as “Pueblos Mancomunados” (meaning “united villages”),…

Taking a dip in the Yucatan’s cenotes, Mexico
Taking a dip in the Yucatan’s cenotes, Mexico

The Yucatán Peninsula can be unpleasantly muggy in the summer. At the same time, the low-lying region’s unique geography holds the perfect antidote to hot afternoons: the limestone shelf that forms the peninsula is riddled with underground rivers, accessible at sinkholes called cenotes – a geological phenomenon found only here. Nature’s perfect swimming spots, cenotes…

A night in the rainforest, Malaysia
A night in the rainforest, Malaysia

You probably won’t get much sleep on your first night in Taman Negara National Park – not because there’s an elephant on your chalet doorstep or the rain’s dripping through your tent, but because the rainforest is unexpectedly noisy after dark. High-volume insects whirr and beep at an ear-splitting pitch, branches creak and swish menacingly,…

Indian visas, Bitcoin, cheaper roaming – this week’s travel news
Indian visas, Bitcoin, cheaper roaming – this week’s travel news

Rough Guides writer Steve Vickers casts an eye over the big travel news topics and unpicks the top stories of the week. Indian visas could get easier India could be about to its expand its visa on arrival scheme to visitors from around 40 additional countries, including the UK. As it stands, tourists from less…

Joining the party at an Iban longhouse, Malaysia
Joining the party at an Iban longhouse, Malaysia

It’s always polite to bring gifts to your hosts’ house, but when visiting a Sarawak longhouse make sure it’s something that’s easily shared, as longhouses are communal, and nearly everything gets divvied up into equal parts. This isn’t always an easy task: typically, longhouses are home to around 150 people and contain at least thirty family apartments, each one’s…

Spellbound in Laos
Spellbound in Laos

The pace of life is deliciously slow in Luang Prabang, but if you opt for a lie-in you’ll miss the perfect start to the day. As dawn breaks over this most languorous of Buddhist towns, saffron-robed monks emerge from their temple-monasteries to collect alms from their neighbours, the riverbanks begin to come alive and the…

Sci-fi plants of Mount Kenya, Kenya
Sci-fi plants of Mount Kenya, Kenya

The Kikuyu people venerated Mount Kenya as the dwelling place of God. They believed if they climbed to the peaks, they would find spiritual inspiration. Straddling the equator and piercing the clouds, Africa’s second-highest mountain – the eroded remains of a vast, prehistoric volcano, towering 5199m from the plains – is a steeper and quicker…

11 loos with great views
11 loos with great views

White, sometimes stained floor tiles and a plain, usually graffitied grey door: I think we can all agree, this is an accurate description of your average toilet – pretty boring, no? Have you ever been having a tinkle, twiddling your thumbs and thought to yourself: “You know what this toilet needs? A good view!” Well,…

Blazing a trail at Dana Nature Reserve, Jordan
Blazing a trail at Dana Nature Reserve, Jordan

When you think of eco-friendly travel, the Middle East might not immediately spring to mind. In environmental terms, the region is a disaster, characterized by a general lack of awareness of the issues and poor – if any – legislative safeguards. But Jordan is quietly working wonders, and the impact in recent years of the…

Bedouin camping at Wadi Rum, Jordan
Bedouin camping at Wadi Rum, Jordan

This excerpt from Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth sees one intrepid Rough Guides writer experience a night to remember… My Bedouin guide settled forward over his ribaba, a simple traditional stringed instrument. As he drew the bow to and fro, the mournful, reedy music seemed to fill the cool night air, echoing…

A floral wave of cherry blossoms, Japan
A floral wave of cherry blossoms, Japan

The arrival of the sakura, or cherry blossom, has long been a profound yet simple Japanese lesson about the nature of human existence. For centuries, poets have fired off reams of haiku comparing the brief but blazing lives of the flowers to those of our own – a tragically fragile beauty to be treasured and contemplated. In Japan,…

The best places to visit in October
The best places to visit in October

As autumn looms in the north and spring is blossoming in the south, October is a beautiful month around the world. From the last of that European sunshine, to the wacky festivities of Halloween in the USA, here are the best places to go for holidays in October. Browse and buy leading art, London, UK…

Heading into deepest mafia country, Italy
Heading into deepest mafia country, Italy

The deep south, toe-end region of Aspromonte is still considered by many Italians to be out of bounds. For it is here, among the thick forests, crenellated mountain peaks and tumbledown villages, that the n’drangheta, or Calabrian mafia, based their empire until the 1990s. The organisation had its origins in landless nineteenth-century peasant workers who…

Masada: conquering Herod’s hilltop palace
Masada: conquering Herod’s hilltop palace

The steep cliffs rising out of the Judean Desert look like an unlikely place for a fortress, but there, 400m up, overlooking the Dead Sea, sits the legendary stronghold of Masada. Masada was first fortified by Herod the Great in the late first century BC, who was apparently so scared his people would revolt that he built this…

Winning the prehistoric lottery, Ireland
Winning the prehistoric lottery, Ireland

Every year in Ireland, thousands of people do the Newgrange lottery. Entry is by application form, with the draw made in October by local schoolchildren. And the prize? The lucky winners are invited to a bleak, wintry field in the middle of County Meath on the longest night of the year, to huddle into a…

Losing yourself in Connemara, Ireland
Losing yourself in Connemara, Ireland

On the far western edge of Europe, the starkly beautiful region of Connemara is a great place to get lost. Cut off from the rest of Ireland by the 25-mile barrier of Lough Corrib, the lie of the land at first looks simple, with two statuesque mountain ranges, the Maam Turks and the Twelve Bens, bordered by the…

Exploring the Bungle Bungle Range, Australia
Exploring the Bungle Bungle Range, Australia

After seeing the Bungle Bungles Range in Purnululu National Park, Rough Guides writer Helen Ochyra had to return to explore this awe-inspiring rock formation on foot. Nothing is as good when seen through a window. A city view from the top of a sealed building, a passing landscape from a moving car, even a World…

The best places to visit in November
The best places to visit in November

As the Northern Hemisphere is getting colder in November, below the equator things are hotting up as spring gets ready to give way to summer. The cooling temperatures aren’t all bad however, as the temperature in Egypt and India becomes far more bearable, and autumn in South Korea is a sight to behold. Check out…

Meditating in the Himalayas, Nepal
Meditating in the Himalayas, Nepal

People have looked to the mountains for spiritual consolation for millennia. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,” say the Psalms, “from whence cometh my help.” For Nepalis, the link is especially powerful. The Himalayas are where the Hindu gods go to meditate and replenish their tapas, or spiritual “heat”, and the Buddhist…

Mud, glorious mud, The Netherlands
Mud, glorious mud, The Netherlands

You can wallow in it, make pies with it, even smear it all over your face. But in The Netherlands they have a different use for mud. They walk across it for fun, striking out from the coast of Friesland at low tide to the Wadden Islands, a string of four islands between 10km and 20km offshore: an…

An Arranged Marriage in Tajikistan – via MMS
An Arranged Marriage in Tajikistan – via MMS

Driving through the city of Panj, Tajikistan, Rough Guides writer Kiki Deere meets an ex-Soviet-soldier-turned-teacher who has discovered a new way of arranging a long-distance marriage. Our heavy-footed driver swerved to avoid a series of large rocks that had crumbled from the mountainside above. A muddy crimson river swept through the valley below: the Panj,…

Exploring the Great Plains
Exploring the Great Plains

Most US travel itineraries skip the “middle bit” – often stereotyped as a boring, endless and pancake-flat swathe of corn that makes up the Great Plains. But while the region lacks showstoppers – no Grand Canyon, no New York – the Great Plains are crammed with surprisingly intriguing attractions and great tracts are, well, quite…

Six spectacular sights in Bolivia
Six spectacular sights in Bolivia

From the heights of La Paz to the Amazon rainforest, the immense Lake Titicaca to the blindingly white Salar de Uyuni salt flats, Bolivia is blessed with a wealth of spectacular sights. Neil McQuillian reveals his six highlights.    The Death Road Any reputable Death Road mountain biking operator will bore you to tears with safety instructions, dos and don’ts, and…

Circling Lago Atitlan, Guatemala
Circling Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

Ever since Aldous Huxley passed this way in the 1930s, writers have lauded the natural beauty of Lago Atitlán. Ringed by three volcanoes, the lake is also surrounded by a series of Maya villages, each with its own appeal and some still quite traditional, despite the influx of visitors. A week spent circumnavigating Atitlán is…

Great Rivers of the World – The Mekong
Great Rivers of the World – The Mekong

Over 4000km long, the Mekong – derived from the Khmer “Mae” meaning “big”, “mother”, or “boss” – is the 12th longest river in the world, flowing from Tibet, through China, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Navigation remains tricky along the Mekong as many rapids and waterfalls pose a risk to those who choose…

Meet the people of Cuba
Meet the people of Cuba

With his sticking-out ears and Groucho Marx moustache, Lucio Parada Camenate makes an unlikely revolutionary hero, but as the face of Fruit Passion, his mugshot appears on juice cartons across the world, wherever Fair Trade products are marketed – much to the evident amusement of his colleagues, who tease him mercilessly for being famoso. Lucio…

Beautiful Detroit: photos of the city at its best
Beautiful Detroit: photos of the city at its best

Empty buildings, decrepit houses and economic decline – the newly-bankrupt Detroit has been hit by a barrage of bad press of late. The Guardian, Time and others have all run (admittedly fascinating) “ruin porn” galleries of the city’s fall from grace. We thought we’d show you some of the more beautiful sights of Detroit instead,…

Things not to miss in India
Things not to miss in India

From the white, snowy tops of the Himalayas, to the greenery of Kerala and then the sands of Goa, India is a hugely diverse, intense but addictive country. It has deserts, rainforests, rural settlements and big cosmopolitan cities – some will love it, and a few will hate it, but with such variety there is…

The world’s most intense storms, Venezuela
The world’s most intense storms, Venezuela

Every night on Lake Maracaibo the clouds gather to perform the world’s most intense storms. Thunder and lightning crash about in the skies as residents of the local villages, built on stilts, sleep peacefully in their shacks. Alasdair Baverstock went to investigate. The towering thunderclouds that had been swelling upwards into the enormous skies were…

A day at The Eden Project, Cornwall
A day at The Eden Project, Cornwall

Home to over a million plants and more than five thousand different species from around the world, the iconic “biomes” (gigantic greenhouses) at the Eden Project are the focus of the UK’s premier green attraction. Built on the site of a former clay quarry, the Rainforest Biome houses plants from tropical islands, Malaysia, West Africa…

Turtle-watching in Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Turtle-watching in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

It’s a clear, moonless night when we assemble for our pilgrimage to the beach. I can’t understand how we are going to see anything in the blackness, but the guide’s eyes seem to penetrate even the darkest shadows. We begin walking, our vision adjusting slowly. We’ve come to Tortuguero National Park, in northeast Costa Rica,…

Extreme hiking in Iceland: the Laugavegur trail
Extreme hiking in Iceland: the Laugavegur trail

In an adventure only for the bravest hikers, David Leffman tackles the rhyolite hills, black sand deserts and the icy glacier caps of the 55km trail from Landmannalaugar to Skógar. Whiteout. Five hours into a five-day hike and I was already stuck in a blizzard, barely able to see my feet through the stinging wind-driven…

Discovering Green Glasgow
Discovering Green Glasgow

Despite its industrial heritage Glasgow is actually one of the greenest cities in Europe, writes Helen Ochyra. Clip clop. I am travelling at nineteenth-century speeds along the main road of a country estate. On one side are formal gardens, planted with shaped hedges in lush greens, on the other, open fields dotted with dun-coloured Highland cattle.…

Iceland: top 10 hot pools to take a dip
Iceland: top 10 hot pools to take a dip

The Icelandic tradition of bathing outdoors in volcanically heated pools dates right back to Viking times. A few of these old pools survive today – often sited in spectacular locations – whilst almost all settlements, however tiny, have installed geothermally-heated swimming pools with accompanying hot tubs. It’s probably not how you planned spending time in…

Five unmissable sights on easter island
Five unmissable sights on easter island

Easter Island is one of the remotest places on Earth – its nearest inhabited neighbour, Pitcairn Island, is 2250km away in the South Pacific Ocean – and is less than half the size of the Isle of Wight. Despite its diminutive size, this triangle-shaped island (known locally as Rapa Nui) is packed with truly unique…

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